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Hand Reading 101

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  • Hand Reading 101

    I have decided to start a new study topic for you guys. This one is is going to be on hand reading and using Jonathan's grouping method to make you better at hand reading.

    First some rules about hand reading:

    1) Hand reading is about putting your opponent on a a range of hands, not a single hand. "You have AK." When ever I hear that from someone, I automatically make a mental note they are a hand reading fish. You should be thinking of all of the possibilities of hands they can have and not just the most likely candidates.

    2) Start from a preflop range. With unknown players, I start with ranges they are expected have. Once you have reads, you will deviate from the expectation to start fine tuning your ranges.

    3) As the hand moves on their range gets smaller. If they call preflop and check/call the flop and you eliminate AA/KK due to the pattern, they cannot have AA/KK on the turn if those hands are already eliminated.

    4) Unexpected aggression may indicate you need to go back to the beginning and re-build their range. More on this later.

    My method of hand reading starts with categorization first. Think of the category of hands his betting pattern indicates and then determine which hands fit into that category.

    There are 3 basic categories:

    Premium Made Hands;
    Marginal Made Hands; and

    I lump draws and junk together into one grouping here as for hand reading. As you read on you will see why this is the case.

    Hand reading is about eliminating hands from the range. What hands make sense to eliminate from my opponent's range? So your first goal of any hand is to properly eliminate one of the categories. Against balanced opponent's it is usually impossible to eliminate more than one. But as we move on in this topic, you may see examples of players who are unbalanced and then you can eliminate 2 categories from their range.

  • #2
    Example 1: (Preflop and Flop)

    Hand: ?? (our hand doesn't matter in this methodology yet.
    Stack: 10,000
    Position: LJ
    Blinds: 25/50

    Preflop (75) We open to 150, the button calls.

    Ok, so now we have to start thinking about his range. Preflop I like to use something derived from Splitsuit's preflop method.

    He uses:

    Pairs, Broadways, suited Connectors, Outliers, and Junk for his preflop categories. His grouping looks like this:

    Then he asks the questions. I will answer them according to our hand above:

    What pairs is in his range? all, but the top

    What broadway hands are in his range? Most. Maybe eliminate the best and worst of these.

    What suited connectors are in his range? Most.

    What outliers are in his range? Most. (both this and the last I like to eliminate the bottom suited connectors and suited one gapped, like 32s, 42s. 54s and 64s are the bottom end that has full coverage when it comes to straight possibilities.)

    Does he have any junk in his range? If so what? Possibly some of the better junk hands might call here.

    So in the end we can eliminate the hands not in his range preflop:

    Flop (375) Jh, Jc, 8d: Hero c-bets 200, button calls.

    Now we have to categorize his hands just as if we were doing homework for our own hands.

    He called. So what can we eliminate? The premium made hands come out. I know we have "Draw (Raise) as our category, but villains calling bets does not eliminate draws as plenty of villains would call instead of raise with those. So our adjusted hand ranges for villain look like this:

    And we will be using the same process for every decision point in the hand until we reach showdown.

    One note:

    Unexpected aggression may mean we have to go back and reconsider the whole range. Imagine this hand gets to the river and we bet and the villain makes a big raise. Then we have to go back and consider he slow played some hands we eliminated and reconstruct the range with that possibility.


    • jjpregler
      jjpregler commented
      Editing a comment
      One note on the Splitsuit method is that I don't think it is perfect. I am actually working on a categorization system to make it better. I don't know if Axs should be an "outlier" grouping. But any other re-grouping I use, trying to keep it consistent with his method is a little worse in the end.

      I also don't like that he has the bottom end of suited connectors in the SCs range.

      So I may end up scrapping that method altogether in the end. But for now, it is the best I can find.

    • jjpregler
      jjpregler commented
      Editing a comment
      Clarification Edit: I just realized that I failed to credit an author for the basic framework of the current system that I use. Andrew Brokos was the first I saw use a grouping system similar to this. I just wanted to give him the credit he deserves for this system.

  • #3
    Part 3 - Eliminating Categories:

    What lines do you look for when eliminating categories?

    Against a c-bet, until I know the player's tendencies, I don't eliminate anything yet.

    If they double barrel or triple barrel, you can start eliminating the marginal part of their range.

    If they start a pot control line, you can start eliminating the monsters from the range. Some players keep barreling with top pair on the turn and river and some will move one pair hands into a marginal category and check at least once with one pair. This is where your observations are important.

    Small river bets - will sometimes eliminate bluffs.

    Large river bets will usually eliminate marginal hands.

    Get clues from their betting line.

    Bet/check/check; check-call/check-call/check; c-bet/check.These are example of lines that eliminate the premium made hands.

    Bet/bet/bet; donk bet large; raising on any street, value betting large on river - these are lines that eliminate marginal range.

    Additionally, your observation of players is important. Some players play their draws passive and take a check/call approach. If they ever take an aggressive action, you can limit their range to premium made hands.

    Others always take an aggressive line with their draws and then their passive lines can be reduced to marginal hands and junk only.

    With some it depends on the betting lead. If they were the betting leader, they will play aggressive with draws and if not they will play passive with draws.


    • #4


      • #5
        Jonathan Little:

        If someone says, He raised pre-flop so I put him on ace-king," or something along those lines, you can be confident he is a weak player. Professional players put their opponents on a range of hands which they narrow down as the hand progresses
        Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, Volume 1, page 47.

        So if you know better than Jonathan on how to hand read, that's great. But this series is for the mortals without super wizard powers.

        Yes, every once in a while you have an opponent who plays a hand in such a way his range is severely limited. But using this method correctly will provide that answer when it does happen. The goal of this method is to deliberately and methodically shrink the range based on every decision point. Sometimes you are able to shrink that range down very small. Other times you cannot. The problem with attempting to nail down a single hand is a typical hand only has 4 decision points when it goes to showdown. 4 decision points is too limited to narrow 1326 possibilities down to just a single output.

        And to respond to your second paragraph, this method is not ignoring any factor about player pools or reads on specific players. So far I have only touched on a "high" view of this method. As this goes on, each progressive post will go further in depth to more specifics such as some of those that you mentioned. I did touch on the subject a little in my high view of the concept when I mentioned some players through observation you are able to eliminate 2 of the 3 possibilities. And sometimes that remaining range is so small you can almost nail it specifically to 1 or 2 hands.

        Now please, stop cluttering my lesson thread with your commentary if you are not going to further to the discussion but instead attempt to sidetrack it or derail it.

        If you have a better way, please start your own lesson thread.
        Last edited by jjpregler; 04-22-2019, 02:59 PM.


        • #6
          Thanks for starting this lesson JJ. As a rec $1/$2 - $1/$3 player, this is excellent info and very helpful. It really relates to some tricky spots I have found myself in lately.


          • jjpregler
            jjpregler commented
            Editing a comment
            There is much more to come. I am planning to do a hand sample tomorrow for members to post opponent ranges and I will follow up and comment on the ranges. Just to see if everyone participating is grasping the concept. I think it would be more important to understand the concept rather than getting the answer right

          • reeeeeeper
            reeeeeeper commented
            Editing a comment
            Looking forward to that

        • #7
          I forget but I think it's Assasinato's lesson but it may not be his but one of the other pros. It goes something like if your playing optimally in some small stakes games you're costing yourself money.

          Next time I'll use the words of the principles.


          • jjpregler
            jjpregler commented
            Editing a comment
            Accurate hand reading is the first step to exploitative poker.

            If you don't like my method no one is forcing you to participate. But I'm not going to sit here and argue with you. My method is very similar to many pros who charge hundreds for hand reading courses. Alot of my information has been published in the past on a now defunct poker training where I was paid to write the course on hand reading. However, they owned the course and I need to re-create it. I am giving away free information that other sites charge hundreds to get.

            Again, I am not here to argue with you. If you don't like it fine. Just go to any other thread on the forum.
            Last edited by jjpregler; 04-22-2019, 08:48 PM.

          • Rainmaker314
            Rainmaker314 commented
            Editing a comment
            Keep going with it, I am eating it up and appreciate the information.

        • #8
          I've had similar discussions with many seasoned pro's who both have training sites or aspire to them. In some cases, the pro's give a lot of good info without context which is exactly what you are going here with this lesson. Calling it reading 101 is misleading. The reason people pay for coaching is to get that context. I'm not arguing with you points, just providing lacking context. Important context too BTW.

          If you think this is a complete lesson and the lack context is beyond reproach, I would only add to anyone listening, beware of the gaps in this lesson.


          • Guido
            Guido commented
            Editing a comment

          • jjpregler
            jjpregler commented
            Editing a comment
            Bob, this is a study group. If you don't like it fine just don't post here and hijack my instruction thread. You are just mucking up the instructions thread for all of the people that want to participate in the study group.

            I have never deleted a fair post before on the forum. I feel that might be "over-reaching" in authority. But for this I decided it would not be. This is a study group and anything detrimental to the group in study group threads will be deleted from here on out. As you can see I deleted your last post and I will continue to do so to any post that does not further the discussion of the study group in a study group thread.

            You are on the record that you think I am wrong. It is noted. But leave it alone for the rest of us.

            It is not just because I think you criticisms are misguided. This is just a high level view of the method. Yes there are gaps, but I have hundreds of other topics in mind that will fill in all of the "gaps" Give me time to develop the study group fully before you criticize the method. Yes, there are many many adjustments to make to any method based on the opponents. My goal in this introductory phase is just to get the study group familiar with the overall method. Nothing more.

            Once familiarity is achieved then we will start developing other scenarios which will cause an adjustment of the ranges.

            Your criticism are that I have not presented a full out sprinting method to win every race, but I am going on the premise that I need to teach how to walk before I teach them how to win the gold medal in a 100M sprint. You have completely missed the point in my high level overview of the method.

            If you want to participate I welcome your participation. But please stop hijacking my study group threads.
            Last edited by jjpregler; 04-23-2019, 02:14 PM.

        • #9
          Hi JJ

          I like this idea of doing handranges of opponents hands like we do homework on our own hands.

          What I don't understand is the idea behind the categories preflop and on the flop. What's the point of categorizing a pair as a pair? A pair will always be a pair. Same for broadways and suited connectors. They are not able to move from one category to another. Why not just use Jonathans categories all the way?

          I don't mean to rub you the wrong way, just a genuine question from my end.


          • jjpregler
            jjpregler commented
            Editing a comment
            I have no problems with using Jonathan's preflop tags at all. In fact, to keep it consistent with it might be best to be honest.

            Overall, my "idea" is to provide a "method" for everyone to be able to hand read with more confidence in game. But Splitsuit is the only method I saw to help define preflop ranges. And it is the one I currently use in game when considering my range.

            Coming from a chess background, I like the idea of asking questions to your self.

            Like with this current study hand I posted, I would ask:

            What pairs is he calling my raise with?
            What broadway hands is he calling with?
            What suited connectors is he calling with?
            What outliers is he calling with?
            Is he calling with any junk? If so what junk is in there?

            Asking questions helps to clarify your thoughts in game.

            In fact, I think my next post should be to detail this preflop method. I will work on that later today.

            But this is for you. If you have a different or better preflop method then by all means use it.

            This is a study group. Even though I am leading, I am learning and studying through this as well. Before I make a post, I do a refresher on my study before posting it to ensure I am giving you guys the best information.

            If someone has a better method, preflop, once I post my current method, discuss yours and we can debate the merits. I may scrap one or the other personally, I might switch if it is better for me or I might incorporate parts and combine the two.

            But the point is, in the end you find what works best for you.

          • BDingle
            BDingle commented
            Editing a comment
            This is terrific stuff. Please don't stop. I need to go back over a lot of it.

        • #10
          I just found this thread. This is great content. Thanks, JJ.

          I still need to read the subsequent posts. So apologies if my comments are covered elsewhere.

          On a basic level, I see how our hand is not too relevant to reading our opponent's hand. But having potential blockers in our hand can be a factor to consider if we are in a situation where the decision is very close.

          In Example 1, I think we're giving villain too many outlier hands when you compare how many broadways we gave him. Would V fold KTo, QTo, JTo, but call with K9o, Q9o, J9o?

          I look forward to reading the rest of these posts.


          • jjpregler
            jjpregler commented
            Editing a comment
            Yes, when we start using hand reading for exploitation methods, our hand will matter. But in these early posts, I have been more focused on having everyone learn the method. Our hand is irrelevant to learn the method of hand reading.

        • #11
          Good stuff jjpregler following with interest.


          • #12
            OMG thank you. Im new and REALLY appreciate a discussion of how to range opponents

            Nice to hear other thoughts.... I LOVE the fact that you consider who has the betting lead (given the range and nut advantage) as we try to elimiate groups of hands from our opponents range. After that, I then consider my opponents image and experience, calculate my equity given pot odds and then elimiate poor choices from my lines (ex: as in folding is bad in this spot, so I should either call, bet small, or bet big -- how will the villian see my action (did I bet to price out draws or bet small enough to have his junk stay in)

            Im trying to read a villians ranges by elimination, and then consider how the villian would see my line to make myself hard to play against.

            As Im playing live small stakes, i also sometimes just group terrible players as either 1. they want to put more money in the pot or 2. they want a cheap showdown. Since most of my opponents act so fast there is no time to think, they cant be considering more than that.. (they play face up plus a few bluffs-- as in they dont know what to do so they bet as a blocking bet or 'see where im at' bet -- its never very large) and they will fold if raised to a good scare card....

            question is ... if my opponents are not thinking in terms or ranges..... am I wrong to use this second method (basically asking myself 'what is my opponent trying to accomplish?) a mistake?

            I WANT to improve and will work as hard as needed until I do, so please smack me down if im on the wrong track..... I can take any critisism in the name of error elimination. Hurt me....

            Now that I re-read the thread, this looks like your using this for pre-flop thinking..... my answer was more of a hand reading vs decent villians compared to hand reading versus bad players.


            • #13
              THANKS JJ - i've had a problem understanding this range method concept, this has helped me to understand the meaning which has been puzzling me for years, it must be good cause everyone is using it these days. however when a range chart display is shown it don't specify if its the opps range or my range and is confusing.


              • #14
                is this thread active anywhere still? I am interested in better categorising my opponents, at present I am working on categorising my own range, but still falling fowl a lot.


                • jjpregler
                  jjpregler commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Not particularly. This was part of a study group I ran 2 years ago.

              • #15
                And how do we think about limitations in opponent range analysis when recognizing that we may be dealing with recs or even real beginners who are just not paying serious attention to what to be opening or calling with. I do recognize that maybe that means we just put them on a wider range and maybe that's the full answer - but if there's anything more particular to say about that, would be good to know. I carry some concern that I may be trying to analyze my opponents tactics sensibly - but that application may not be so sensible after all if they are not acting sensibly. Thanks much for any thoughts on this.


                • jjpregler
                  jjpregler commented
                  Editing a comment
                  There is a very common error among poker players that everyone must get beyond to make it to a higher level. That error is making the mistake that every poker player thinks about hands and ranges exactly the way you do.

                  One of the real tricks is to be observant and try to understand how they think of hands. What hands do they consider premium? marginal? and so on. I have played opponents that considered any Ax hand to be a drawing hand until they saw the river. I have played against players who play TP good kicker like a marginal hand. You still parse their hand categories into the same groups, but you must adjust the groupings to fit what they think about poker.

                  Then another mistake players make is that they do not play the categories of hands the same you that you would. Some may go for value with marginal hands. Some play draws passive. Some bluff all of their junk.

                  So always start with the baseline. What would you expect players to make with each. When you get to showdown and villain plays a hand wrong for their category, that is when you make a note.
                  Last edited by jjpregler; 04-15-2021, 05:16 AM.

              • #16
                Hey. Thank you. This was really helpful. I'll be tuning in to more of your work!